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5 players who will thrive under Andrea Pirlo at Juventus

Andrea Pirlo (right) being unveiled as the new Juventus manager
Andrea Pirlo (right) being unveiled as the new Juventus manager
ANALYST
Modified 16 Sep 2020, 23:34 IST
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After Juventus' latest attempt to win the Champions League ended in disappointment following a Round-of-16 defeat to Lyon, manager Maurizio Sarri, who had delivered Juventus' ninth consecutive Scudetto, was expectedly shown the door.

That was because Juventus' Serie A dominance was a given; but Sarri, much like his predecessors Massimiliano Allegri and Antonio Conte, failed to land the much-coveted Champions League, a competition Juventus haven't won in more than two decades.

However, what was more surprising was the choice of the man who replaced the veteran coach at the Bianconeri helm: former player Andrea Pirlo, who was just ten days into his first managerial job as the coach of Juventus' Under-23 team before being given the reins of the senior team.

The decision was met with cautious optimism by the Bianconeri faithful who knew that expecting too many things from Pirlo too soon could be a move fraught with peril.

Nevertheless, the recently retired player has promised to introduce a 'refreshing' brand of high-pressing football in a radical departure from the uninspiring 'Sarriball' practiced by his predecessor.

Pirlo observed that teams who were successful in the Champions League last season were the ones who strove to reclaim possession in the shortest possible time, a style of football that could help Juventus end their long title drought in the competition.

"Looking at the last Champions League, the teams that went all the way were the ones who were trying to recover the ball in the shortest possible time. That must be a characteristic that distinguishes us (too)." 

Five Juventus players who could thrive under Andrea Pirlo

The 41-year-old has said that club stalwarts like Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon have been 'receptive' to the new innovative training methods introduced by him.

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"The lads are eager to do well, they have found a new methodology with some new exercises they have never done, and therefore this already brings enthusiasm. The aggression and the desire to win the ball back after losing it, that's something we are working on a lot," said Pirlo.

While it remains to be seen if Pirlo's high-pressing style of play would bring about the desired results for Juventus, a few players could thrive under the new manager this season. Let us have a look at five of them in no particular order.

#1 Arthur Melo

Arthur Melo has arrived from Barcelona as part of a swap deal that involved Juventus
Arthur Melo has arrived from Barcelona as part of a swap deal that involved Juventus' Miralem Pjanic going the other way.

In a swap deal involving Miralem Pjanic going to Barcelona, 24-year-old Arthur Melo arrived at Juventus from Camp Nou.

Arthur is renowned for his ball-control and dribbling skills; his versatility allows him to be deployed in various roles like a deep-lying playmaker, central midfielder, box-to-box midfielder and a holding midfielder, a quality which makes him an ideal player in Pirlo's setup.

The new Juventus manager's proposed playing style necessitates the presence of players who could win the ball from the opposition, and this is where Arthur fares particularly well.

Arthur averaged 3.11 tackles per 90 last season compared to Pjanic's 1.34 and offers more creativity and attacking thrust than the Montenegrin, which could be key in unlocking tight defences both at home and abroad.

The Brazilian's dribbling prowess and ability to keep the ball at the centre of the park could mean that the Juventus attackers wouldn't have to drop back too often and could, instead, stay in forward areas to receive the ball. And that could only mean more goal-scoring opportunities for the likes of Ronaldo and Dybala who are at their lethal best in the attacking-third.

With Arthur pulling the strings from midfield, Juventus may carry a more potent threat up front, something that could be key for the Bianconeri to not only win a tenth consecutive Scudetto but also bring home their first Champions League trophy in 25 years.

#2 Matthijs de Ligt

Matthijs de Ligt
Matthijs de Ligt

After leading Ajax to a fairy tale run in which they reached the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League semifinal, Matthijs de Ligt arrived at Juventus on a €75 million transfer with plenty of expectations inflated by his hefty price tag.

However, the former Ajax captain had a tough initiation to life in Italy when he had to be thrust into the playing XI as Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini suffered an injury. The young Dutchman made a calamitous home debut against Napoli and continued to struggle, conceding penalties by making uncharacteristic handballs.

Despite scoring the winner in the Turin derby, De Ligt paid the price for his shoddy show at the back in Juventus' 1-3 loss to Lazio. Of course, the situation was exacerbated by Sarri replacing his predecessor Allegri's successful man-to-man marking system with zonal defending.

The transition to a new system of defending was expectedly a complicated one as the Bianconeri shipped goals galore. De Ligt was not the only one to make high-profile errors but paid the price by losing his place in the starting XI.

Former Juventus defender Jonathan Zebina was not very critical of the young Dutchman's performances, though.

"He had more difficulties at the beginning than people expected. But how old is he, 20? He's gone in at the deep end, so it strikes me as completely normal. What isn't normal is that people expected extraordinary things from him straight away."
"The players have been making a lot of mistakes, and in the middle of all these defensive problems, you find De Ligt. I don't think it's all his responsibility," opined La Gazetta dello Sport's Filippo Conticello.

Besides, Juventus under Sarri was not making use of De Ligt's prowess on the ball. The Dutchman made 67.2 passes a game in his last season at Ajax, but with the Bianconeri, that number dropped down to 53.

De Ligt, who played as a playmaker in the Ajax youth teams, is a quintessential ball-playing defender who loves to score goals. Under Pirlo, the young Dutchman would hope to be more involved in the team's buildup play as the Bianconeri look to conquer the final frontier after dominating the domestic scene for over a decade.

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Published 16 Sep 2020, 23:34 IST
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